Posted in Advice & Information, Ramblings, The World of Books

Redeeming Qualities… or Why a Character Can be Utterly Useless…

I’ve been reading a book this week – which is not, in itself, an unusual occurrence.  I’m a voracious book lover and read between three to five books a week.

What is different and completely out of the ordinary, is my reaction to the book.  I loathed it.

I’m pretty much open to every genre and read  a wide variety of authors.  I try to finish every book I read, giving it the best possible chance of gaining my attention.  Because I tend to leave reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, I do my level best to get to ‘The End’.

With the particular book in question, I made it to ‘The End’, but spent the second half of the book questioning why I was bothering.  There are other books in this author’s series, but I will never attempt reading them because of the experience I had reading the first one.

The problem?  I hated the main character.  In fact, I didn’t just hate her.  I loathed her.  Abhorred her.  Hoped she would get killed before the book finished.  I’m not willing to name the author, or the name of the book – mainly because this is only my opinion, but the main character in this particular book was so incredibly self-centered, she defied belief.  I couldn’t find one likable feature in the shallow portrayal created by the author.  

Creating a character that readers will invest in isn’t easy, but the author in this situation made a shallow facsimile.  We all have both good and bad aspects of our personalities – that’s what makes us human.  No person on the planet is all good, nor is anyone completely and utterly evil.  The most-sainted among us will have done something naughty at some stage in their life.  You may be the equivalent of Mother Teresa, but at some stage you must have told a little white lie, stolen a peek at someone’s homework or nicked an extra chocolate from the fridge when nobody was looking.  

Equally, the most evil person on the planet must have some redeeming feature, such as loving his mother, or patting a puppy once-upon-a-time, or dropping ten cents in a donation box.

In the book I was reading, I think the author was going for a Legally Blonde/Reece Witherspoon kind of character.  Unfortunately, she failed miserably.  The main character was completely self-centered, considering only her own situation.  She was stupid to the point of needing to be committed for her mistakes.  She didn’t care how she hurt other people, only that she ‘got to the truth’ in the case of her boyfriend who was accused of a crime that she was convinced he didn’t commit.  Never mind that said boyfriend turned out to be married, and whilst not a murderer, was most certainly an embezzler and a cheat.  Forget about the fact that he up and left without a word to her, or that he had many, many annoying and irritating habits which she didn’t like.  Other than a cursory examination of her emotions, she was determined to find and rescue him.  Stepping all over other people while she was at it.  

Add to this her obsession with fashion, her self-obsession and a willingness to auto-dump anyone and anything if it didn’t fit in with her plans and you have a heroine in a book who would be lucky if Mother Teresa could like her.  I certainly didn’t.

Balancing a character’s personality isn’t easy.  When writing, its all too easy to have a picture in your head of who the character is going to be, what their motivation is and how they’re going to get there.  But please, please, please! Remember that your idiot blonde can’t be a complete moron in every aspect of her life.  Remember your axe-murderer must have a reason he’s turned out the way he has.  Remember your pious goody-two-shoes must have moments of temptation placed in his path.  Otherwise, you’ve created a character whom readers can’t relate to and won’t care about.

What you’ve actually created in those sorry circumstances, is a caricature whom readers will abhor.  And unless they’re pig-headed like me, they’ll be closing the book before they’re anywhere near ‘The End’.  

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